“I don’t understand; I use [a diet system] to lose weight and am generally very successful, however, as soon as I come off the diet and start eating regularly, I gain the weight right back. This has happened three times now. What am I doing wrong?”

This is the sad the story of relapse. You keep doing the same things over and over again expecting different results. Certain actions will bring about certain results and no matter how hard you ‘wish’ things would turn out different, you produce the same outcome yet again: you are back to your old habits – smoking, eating, gambling, drinking, screaming…

Relapse is not a mystery. In order to make a change and sustain that change there are certain things you must do – these are mandatory if you want to sustain the change. If you are not willing to do them, then you will most likely return to your old ways and produce the same results as before.

The missing ingredient to sustainable change is to become someone new. You cannot take the old habits and put them in a new environment and expect things to be different. For instance, you cannot move to a new city, new house, change jobs, change relationships or change addictions and expect things to be different. YOU have to change. YOU go with you everywhere you go. Your self-image and how you think of yourself needs to change. You have to develop new characteristics, practice new behaviors and become someone new in the process of your change or else, eventually, you will bring about the same old results in a new landscape.

A dieter choosing any weight loss method who does not change their self-image or how they view themselves, their value structure, their lifestyle and their priorities, will revert back to the way things were before. Diets are not forever. Diets are short term fixes to jumpstart a long term solution.

Think of a car; let’s say you are the kind of driver who likes to slam on their brakes. You drive very fast and then slam to come to a stop. After a short while, your brakes need replacing. You ride them hard and they wear quite rapidly. This can be expensive. You don’t want to keep spending money to replace brake pads and rotors. Or perhaps you have a newborn baby or had an accident and this prompts you to examine your driving practices. Whatever the reason, you decide that something needs to change.

That ‘something’ that needs to change is YOU.

You actually need to train yourself to become a different kind of driver, one who drives cautiously and slower, who approaches stops with more care and uses lighter pressure on the brake pedal. This will require new behaviors and consistent attention to those new behaviors over a period of time. You will need to practice so you can become a different kind of driver.

So you begin to examine your behaviors and choose new ones that eventually develop into new habits – no more slamming on your brakes. You need to slow down, take your time and enjoy driving at a different pace. Maybe, you have to give yourself more time to get places.

You don’t like change but it’s good for you so you slow down and things are good for awhile, but unless something else shifts internally for you, you might forget and start driving fast again. Habits are not easily changed.

In the process of practicing these new behaviors, however, you may start to see yourself differently. You change how you define yourself as a driver and the role driving plays in your life. There are certain characteristics of a good driver and you are beginning not only to define them, but to adopt them. You begin to view yourself as a ‘good driver’ possessing and practicing these qualities.

You notice other benefits as well. You feel less stressed. Perhaps your blood pressure goes down. You begin to appreciate driving and owning a car, the freedom it affords you. You are grateful for the privilege. After all, it is a very different lifestyle to travel by bus, train, bike, foot or taxi everywhere you go.

Gratitude and appreciation for your new way of life is one essential element for sustainability.

Gratitude then fuels your value system. You will always do what you perceive is of greatest value. In the past, driving fast and perhaps not as carefully was more important for whatever reason. You may not have consciously chosen this value; you just learned to drive fast and it became habit. Over time, it produced unfavorable results such as accidents, premature wear and tear on your vehicle and even tickets.

Now, after consideration, you realize there are other things that you value more. Whereas before, you valued driving fast and rushing to get places, now you value your hard-earned money, your child or your license and insurance which will be gone if you keep getting tickets and having accidents. Driving slowly and more cautiously becomes more important than anything else. This then motivates you to behave a certain way. Your values power your behavior. This is the impetus you need to make substantial changes in how you drive. A change in values produces sustainable results as values are less likely to change without careful thought and consideration.

Change requires a stimulus or a ‘kick in the pants’. We need to be motivated to do the work in order to change. Change is hard work, after all.

An upcoming event such as a wedding, prom or vacation may motivate you to lose weight but it won’t be enough to sustain that weight loss unless you see the value in staying thin and embarking upon a new life. You have to be willing to embrace new habits and become a new person in the process with different values and priorities. You must be different. If you cannot accept that, then the change will be short-lived, you will regain the weight or resume the old addiction – you will relapse – and things will return to the way they were.

This is why dieting is often referred to as a ‘lifestyle change’ because you really do need to change how you live and how you approach and think about food and fitness in order to sustain a thinner body.

So the secret to sustainability is to ‘Become a New You’. How you get there is through:

1) Developing the characteristics you need in order to succeed.
2) Being grateful.
3) Choosing your values and what is important to you. This will motivate you to succeed.

Author's Bio: 

Julie Donley knows firsthand what it means to conquer adversity. Having overcome addiction, a grave illness, divorce, single parenthood, obesity, indebtedness and being laid-off three times, Julie brings a wealth of personal experience to her work. Julie has worked in psychiatric nursing since 1993 and founded her company, Nurturing Your Success, in 2001 to assist people in achieving their goals and working through change. She is the author of several books including Does Change have to be so H.A.R.D.? and The Journey Called YOU: A Roadmap to Self-Discovery and Acceptance. Learn more at www.NurturingYourSuccess.com. Contact Julie at Julie@NurturingYourSuccess.com to have her speak at your next meeting or conference.